Germany’s Bid to Speed Up LNG Infrastructure Faces Opposition From Environmentalists

By James Carstensen | May 11, 2022 | 10:19pm EDT
A Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) filling station for trucks in Dortmund, western Germany. (Photo by Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)
A Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) filling station for trucks in Dortmund, western Germany. (Photo by Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

Berlin (CNSNews.com) – A German government plan to fast-track the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals faces environmentalist opposition at home, while reported negotiation holdups with Qatar place further hurdles in the way of the country’s efforts to replace Russian gas.

The federal cabinet on Tuesday night approved a new “LNG acceleration act,” as part of a plan to replace at least 70 percent of Russian gas imports in the light of the Ukraine war and the crisis in Europe-Russia relations.

The new law, which has yet to be debated in the Bundestag, aims to enable four floating LNG terminals to be approved and constructed in just 10 months.

Such an accelerated process would be achieved in part by bypassing environmental impact assessments and public input, a move that has angered some organizations.

“It is unacceptable that environmental impact assessments and opportunities for the public and associations to get involved can be circumvented, or that legitimate safety concerns on the part of the public can be simply wiped away, as the draft envisages,” said Constantin Zerger of the campaign group Environmental Action Germany.

The group earlier announced a legal challenge to the process, charging that constructing a terminal at the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven could endanger the underwater habitat and porpoises in the harbor.

The plans for legal action came despite a plea by Economy Minister Robert Habeck, who told the RTL broadcaster that without the LNG terminals, “supply security in Germany is not guaranteed.”

Citing the risk of gas supply interruptions, Habeck’s ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, “The immediate and fastest possible development of a more independent national gas supply is urgent.”

Just one day later, the Kremlin stoked fears of a potential cut in supplies, announcing counter-sanctions against the Gazprom Germania Group, a Russian-owned gas subsidiary that was recently placed under German government control.

After the cabinet decision on Tuesday, Environment Minister Steffi Lemke spoke out against curtailing climate protection measures in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Despite the war in Ukraine, we must not lose sight of the climate crisis and the crisis of species extinction," she told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine makes us painfully aware of the vulnerability and dependence of our fossil energy supply,” Lemke said. “This is exactly why we must promote the expansion of renewable energies and must not organize a step backwards to the old fossil days.”

Meanwhile, Germany’s bid to wean itself off Russian gas faces another potential roadblock, with reports that plans to seek long-term supplies from Qatar are being held up over serious contractual differences.

Citing people familiar with the process, Reuters reported that Qatar has imposed heavy-handed conditions for a deal, including a minimum term of 20 years and a ban on Germany re-exporting the gas to other E.U countries.

Such a ban would undermine a pledge by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to help landlocked E.U. member-states by facilitating gas supplies.

Qatar reportedly also wants the gas price to be tied to the price of oil, whereas Germany wants to keep the price linked to the European gas index. Germany’s Economy Ministry has not commented on the report.

Habeck visited Qatar, now the world’s largest LNG supplier, in March, and the two sides agreed on a long-term energy partnership.

Before that trip, Habeck warned in a radio interview that if Germany did not obtain more gas by next winter, and if deliveries from Russia ceased, it would not have sufficient supply to heat homes or keep industry afloat.

The Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is expected to travel to Germany this month to continue negotiations.

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